Maternal Health Reporting for male Journalists: Doing what is WRITE.

Maternal Health Reporting for male Journalists: Doing what is WRITE.

RETURNING from the Women Deliver conference in Washington D.C I woke up to a certain reality. The Third World especially, is more preoccupied with pigeon-holing news and interests to our own detriment.

Women Deliver was of course discussing the future of mankind itself, not to be too dramatic.

Maternal healthcare and issues to do with safer childbearing are issues that affect the very core of mankind.

Man, woman, black or white, rich or poor straight or of a same-sex orientation, being born at all; being born right, being born healthy and to a living mother is of the essence for all.

Yet surprisingly there was the major question of what under the sun I was doing at a ‘women’s conference’ no less.

These questions were not coming from illiterate people deep in the rural enclaves of my nation, but from the major newsrooms of my country. Amidst informed people who in turn celebrate themselves as seasoned journalists then (mis)inform the world.

If matters of life and death at the birthing table are issues for women alone, then indeed, the world, life and existence are issues that women alone should superintend over!

If the death of a woman while she is giving life to a baby, boy or girl, should be viewed as a women only issue, then there is no place for men at any forum whatsoever.

Granted, some may have read into the name Women Deliver and have prejudged wrongly, but it is the whole issue of having a women’s only issue or a men’s only issue or adults only forum that has caused the world to advance at a retarded pace.

That is the very challenge that one faces as a journalist covering health issues and issues to do with human rights in the world.

The same problem exists in the world of HIV and Aids reporting.

In the beginning of the advocacy journalism drive, one would be pushed by institutional stigma from reporting on an issue of their personal passion for fear of being labeled.

One would automatically be assumed to be HIV positive due to their interest and seen as a person on a personal quest and Odyssey to get answers for their personal ailment and afflictions under the guise of reporting as a journalist.

As the momentum grew in advocacy journalism in what is a well-funded response to HIV and Aids, the question raised grew to that of money.

The new claim was that the journalist was attracted to reporting Aids because it was the field that had many ‘overseas trips’ and ‘per diems’ and hence was a pot of honey attracting journalists to report on.

This has always been the problem that has rubbished the genuine concerns and fears of many people who passionately want to report on an issue of personal concern to them.

Being a man in a ‘woman’s world’ to use the language of the cynics, has its own challenges, prejudices and morale ‘killing’ moments. But that is where the chivalry comes.

The more one fights a bigger army of skeptics, the more ‘badges’ of honour they earn in the drive to get their story of passion heard and the more they genuinely deserve the praise.

The true reason why strong journalists, men and women alike, continue writing on issues to do with maternal health is that we are sons and daughters of our mothers no less. It is because I personally feel privileged to have been born to a mother who was informed in an era of limited knowledge to be able to become the poster face of family planning. Having four sons all born seven years apart at a time when women were hardly allowed to choose let alone decide on contraception is no mean feat.

I write because despite the pressure from social norms to reproduce actively in a Catholic family, she managed to make decisions.

I write because as a result of that choice, my sixty-two-year old mother is still fit and beautiful and could decide on a new career on the ramp to rival Naomi Campbell if she so wished.

I write because I feel other women, who have lost their lives for not having the same information as my mother will not have died in vain and to make sure any woman who comes across my writing knows that some choices with regards childbearing are not possible NOW but in fact were feasible in 1966 when my young African mother knew she had the right to choose! It is not impossible, it happened to her then; a young mother today should have the same option.

And having a close relative whose mother’s face he failed to touch and tickle. Whose mother he did not grow up with. Whose mother’s face he did not wake up to like I did because she died giving him life on the birthing table is added fuel. I write because I know maternal health for mothers should be guaranteed for us all. I should not be privileged to have a mother who could make her own decisions and live a healthy reproductive life. Instead it should be a mother’s right at birth.

Whatever name-calling one will attract for the reasons of advancing the dream of a healthier human race, then those are but badges of honour.

That is not a matter for women. It is a matter for all mankind!

Robert Mukondiwa is a Zimbabwean journalist who attended and covered the Women Deliver Conference in Washington D.C as part of the 100 young leaders initiative on a Women Deliver scholarship.


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